Wednesday, November 19, 2014

High-Efficiency Washers Put Soap Companies in Spin Cycle   


Lauren Coleman-Lochner, writing for Bloomberg:

After buying a high-efficiency washing machine, Stephen Asbel found that adding his usual amount of detergent turned his family’s clothes into a sudsy mess. So he cut back on it. And then cut back some more.

The experience is typical of people who own the new washers, and it’s bad news for detergent companies such as Procter & Gamble Co. (PG) and Church & Dwight Co., which are already struggling with declining sales. Their product — once lavished onto clothes with overflowing capfuls — is no longer needed in the same quantities.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Delete2Archive for OS X 10.10.1


Yesterday Apple released OS X 10.10.1, the first update to Yosemite.

As was done for prior versions of the operating system, I’ve released a new version of Delete2Archive that is compatible with the latest update. Follow the installation instructions and download the new version of the plugin from the Delete2Archive page.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

10 Years and 1,000 Lashes for Blogging   


Amnesty International:

Authorities arrested Raif Badawi (pronounced Ra-eef Ba-da-wee) on 17 June 2012. They charged him with insulting Islam and creating the “Saudi Arabian Liberals” website for social and political debate. The charges related to articles Raif wrote criticizing religious figures.

Raif Badawi’s case bounced back and forth between courts until 7 May 2014. On that day, the Criminal Court pronounced a sentence of 10 years in prison, 1000 lashes and a fine of 1 million riyals (about $290,000 CDN). After he serves a decade in jail, he is also forbidden to travel for the following decade and from participating in the media.

A sobering reminder that the rights and freedoms we often take for granted are not yet universal.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

How Carpooling Will Save the World   


Jason Goldman, writing for Conservation:

The researchers started with a massive dataset: every trip taken by each of New York City’s 13,586 registered taxis that either started or ended in Manhattan in the year 2011. That gave them more than 150 million taxi trips. Each data point included the vehicle ID number, the GPS coordinates of the pickup and drop-off locations, and the travel time.

By passing that data through a graph-based mathematical model, the researchers identified opportunities for trip sharing without re-routing trips that had already started. The system that the researchers designed worked such that sharing options would have to be identified within one minute of the ride request. If no viable sharing options existed, then that request would initiate a new ride. That way, already-existing trips would not have to be re-routed; they would only pick up new passengers if the additional trip’s pickup and drop-off points were “on the way” to the original destination. By implementing such a program, the researchers estimate that transportation within Manhattan would become 40% more efficient.

The potential for this research is huge. Maybe not so much in North America where we seem to avoid interactions with strangers at all costs, but potentially in developing economies where vehicle-related congestion is just getting started.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Catching Digital Lightning in a Bottle


I was thrilled when Apple announced the iMac with Retina 5K display. They fulfilled one of my ‘Hopes for WWDC 2014‘ in a big way, opting for a display resolution of 5,120-by-2,880 when something in the 4K-range was expected. Inspired by an image on Apple’s website and a tweet comparing the original iPhone display to that of the iPhone 6 Plus, I created a comparison showing the original Macintosh display overlaid on new iMac display. I posted the image along with a few statistics in an article titled ‘The Difference 30 Years Makes: iMac with Retina 5K display vs. the Original Apple Macintosh‘.

That article, first published on October 22, has since generated more than 140,000 page views, hundreds of tweets, and a handful of mentions on influential tech websites. For a tiny website like Things of Interest1 it’s been a very special and rewarding experience. The rest of this article is dedicated to providing a brief analysis of how we caught digital lightning in a bottle.

Getting the word out

For the most part, I don’t promote my articles beyond automated tweets to the Things of Interest twitter account and the occasional post to my personal Facebook account. But given the widespread coverage of the iMac with Retina 5K display and that it has been 30 years since the original Macintosh was announced, I decided to send a few emails and tweets to Apple-focused sites promoting my iMac vs. Macintosh article. Less than ten minutes after sending an email to Dave Mark, I received a friendly reply notifying me that he posted a link on The Loop:

The Loop Screenshot

The impact was immediate, with Things of Interest receiving several hundred concurrent visitors in the first few minutes and almost 2,000 page views within the hour after the link was posted. But more importantly, The Loop generated a level of awareness that I certainly couldn’t create on my own.

Picking up steam

Thanks to the initial coverage from The Loop, the article started being shared around Twitter and Facebook, somehow finding its way to both Shawn Blanc and Jason Snell. Around the same time, it was posted to Reddit and eventually topped both the /r/Apple and /r/Mac subreddits.

By this time, Things of Interest was sustaining about 500 visitors at any given time, and I started to worry about server capacity. However, thanks to some prior WordPress modifications2, the server actually stood up quite well. From what I can tell, everyone that tried to access the article was able to see it.

Daring Fireball

By mid-afternoon I was completely absorbed in checking Twitter notifications, making sure the site was still loading reliably, and reviewing visitor statistics. I happened to be watching the real-time overview in Google Analytics when I noticed a big jump in traffic – the ‘active users on site right now’ metric went from 500 to over 1,000 in just a few seconds. It didn’t take much effort to identify the cause of the surge because there was a new website listed atop the ‘top referrals’ table:

Daring Fireball Screenshot

As a daily reader of Daring Fireball and a subscriber of The Talk Show, it was thrilling and humbling to see my name referenced on John Gruber’s site. Within an hour of being linked on Daring Fireball, the article received almost 10,000 page views. This also started another round of mentions on social media and generated more links from other tech-focused blogs.

By the end of the day, Things of Interest received more than 70,000 page views, almost three times the traffic the site received in its 15 months of existence up to that point.

Other Mentions

While the bulk of the traffic generated by the article occurred in the first two days, there were a few interesting mentions in the week that followed.

Christina Warren, Senior Tech Analyst at Mashable, referenced the article in her review of the iMac with Retina 5K display:

With 14.7 million pixels on the panel, Apple says the Retina 5K iMac has seven times the resolution of full HD (1,920 x 1,080). Even more impressive, it has 67% more pixels than a 4K display.

Kent Akgungor put that in perspective when he figured out that you can fit 80 displays from the original Macintosh from 1984 into the resolution of the new Retina iMac. That’s a lot of display advancement over the last 30 years.

Ewan Spence, a contributor to Forbes, referenced the article in his weekly ‘Apple Loop‘ feature:

My favorite image of the week comes from Kent Akgungor on Things of Interest. He’s take the promotional image / wallpaper from Apple that is being used to demo the 5K Retina screen of the new iMac, and overlaid the original cutting-edge Macintosh desktop on a pixel for pixel basis.

For the record, over 80 Macintosh displays will fit into that 5K screen.

Statistics (October 22 to October 29)

Hourly users and page views:

Google Analytics Visitors

Traffic sources:

  1. Direct (42.3%)
  2. Referral (31.8%)
  3. Social (24.5%)
  4. Search (1.4%)

Top referral sources:

  1. (19,503)
  2. (15,837)
  3. (3,944)
  4. (3,474)
  5. (1,960)

Twitter Analytics:

Twitter Analytics

Facebook Insights:

Facebook Insights

Long-term Impact

As illustrated by the hourly traffic chart above, the surge in traffic was short-lived. However, I’m hopeful that this experience will result in a long-term increase to the viewership of Things of Interest. The site’s search engine ranking should benefit from all the links it received3; the site gained a few more followers on Twitter and Feedly4; and the site’s Alexa Traffic Rank improved by more than two million spots5.

  1. Things of Interest averaged 2,000 page views per month for the 12 months ended September 30, 2014. 
  2. Things of Interest is currently hosted on an inexpensive cloud hosting plan which is not designed for the kind of visitor volume this article generated. Luckily, I’d spent a lot of time optimizing the site’s WordPress installation, making the majority of the content static and pushing as many resources as possible to CloudFlare, a content delivery network with many free features. Of the 600+ gigabytes of data served between October 22 and October 29, only 5 gigabytes (0.8%) were delivered from my host; the rest were delivered from CloudFlare. I plan to write a more detailed explanation of the technical side of this experience in the future. 
  3. According to Google Webmaster Tools, the number of links to Things of Interest increased from 300 to 2,700. 
  4. Twitter followers went from 10 to 37; Feedly readers went from 1 to 36. 
  5. Alexa Traffic Rank improved from approximately 2,600,000 to 390,000. 
Saturday, November 8, 2014

OS X 10.10 Yosemite: The Ars Technica Review   


John Siracusa wrote over 26,000 words across 25 pages detailing OS X Yosemite for Ars Technica. Here are a few of the new features that impress me:


Following in the footsteps of venerable quick-access launchers like LaunchBar and Quicksilver as well as (relative) youngsters like Alfred, the Spotlight search field now appears front and center when activated. This may seem like a trivial change, but it transforms the user experience. What was once an awkward, non-standard text field sprouting from a tiny icon in the corner of the screen is now a wide, inviting window with very large text.


In addition to the simple mathematical calculations it already handles, Spotlight in Yosemite now does unit conversions faster than you can type the same query into a Google search box.


Handoff takes aim at the difficulty of transitioning between devices while continuing to work on the same task. Imagine you’re composing an e-mail on your iPhone as you ride to work on the train. You arrive at the office, but the e-mail isn’t complete. You’d like to sit down at your Mac and finish the e-mail on your big, comfortable keyboard.


Upon arriving at your desk in the office, the Apple Mail icon appears in a single-item mini-dock to the left of the real Dock (or on top, if your Dock is on the side of the screen).

A similar icon also appears in the command-tab application switcher. Clicking the icon in the mini-dock or selecting it from the application switcher launches Mail (if it’s not already running) and displays a message composition window containing the exact e-mail message you were just composing on your phone, with the insertion point in the message area at the end of the text you’ve written so far.

SMS in Messages:

If you long to see the green message bubbles on your Mac that denote the shameful use of a legacy SMS/MMS service, then Yosemite is the release for you.

The Mac will use your iPhone as a proxy for SMS communication, sending and receiving non-iMessage text messages through it. Both devices must be signed in to the same iCloud account, and there is a one-time verification process to allow a Mac to use a specific iPhone.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Albuquerque Balloon Fiesta 2014   


Knate Myers:

Every year the city of Albuquerque host the largest hot air balloon event in the world, the Albuquerque International Balloon Fiesta.

A mesmerizing timelapse. I love the final shot.

(Via Colossal)

Understanding the Birthday Paradox   


Kalid Azad:

In a room of just 23 people there’s a 50-50 chance of two people having the same birthday. In a room of 75 there’s a 99.9% chance of two people matching.

Even after reading the article and understanding the probability calculations, I still can’t accept that this is true.

Tim Cook Speaks Up   


Tim Cook, in an essay published by Bloomberg Businessweek:

[...] I believe deeply in the words of Dr. Martin Luther King, who said: “Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’ ” I often challenge myself with that question, and I’ve come to realize that my desire for personal privacy has been holding me back from doing something more important. That’s what has led me to today.

For years, I’ve been open with many people about my sexual orientation. Plenty of colleagues at Apple know I’m gay, and it doesn’t seem to make a difference in the way they treat me. Of course, I’ve had the good fortune to work at a company that loves creativity and innovation and knows it can only flourish when you embrace people’s differences. Not everyone is so lucky.

While I have never denied my sexuality, I haven’t publicly acknowledged it either, until now. So let me be clear: I’m proud to be gay, and I consider being gay among the greatest gifts God has given me.

Well said.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

OS X Yosemite Adoption   


From GoSquared’s real-time OS X version distribution page:

The graph shows the percentage of visits tracked by GoSquared on over 50,000 sites.

Just over a week since its launch, Yosemite is already installed on 1 in 5 Macs. Interestingly, it looks like most of the early upgrades are coming from users of Mavericks, which was the current version of the OS prior to Yosemite. The share for older versions (Mountain Lion and Lion) has remained essentially constant since Yosemite was released, which was the same phenomenon I pointed out last year.